FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- DISCUSSION OF THE PRIOR ART
The invention relates to a seat belt retractor for of a vehicle having an electric motor for transmitting torque to the winding shaft of the retractor.
DE 100 13 869 C2 teaches a seat belt retractor wherein a torque is transmitted at a low revolution of a driving means to the motive spring to change the spring force. The known device has a coupling, which at a high revolution transmits the torque supplied by the driving means to the winding shaft to wind up the seat belt. The torque transmission can be carried out by a worm gear. The transmission means, with which the torque of the driving means is transmitted to the winding shaft, as well as the motive spring, are provided on one side of the retractor or the winding shaft.
DE 199 27 731 C2 teaches a seat belt retractor wherein a switch coupling is provided which, depending on a signal emitted in a pre-crash situation, transmits a torque supplied by the electric motor to the belt reel to pretighten the seat belt. A gear can also be provided between the output shaft of the electric motor and the winding shaft, whereby the gear and the motive spring, the spring force of which can also be adjusted by the electric motor driving means, are arranged on one side of the seat belt retractor or the winding shaft.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In the known seat belt retractors, the spring force of the motive spring and hence the comfort perceived by the wearer of the seat belt can be adjusted during normal driving conditions. In addition, during removal of the seat belt, the spring force can be increased for retracting the seat belt into a stored configuration. In addition, the torque transmitted at an increased revolution by the electric motor driving means to the belt reel can be used to pretighten the seat belt in a driving situation in which a high crash risk is detected.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
The present invention provides a seat belt retractor of the above mentioned type, in which a simple mounting of the gear of the coupling and the motive spring is achieved with a compact arrangement of the retractor. In an advantageous manner the electric motor driving means and the pyrotechnical tightening device are secured to a common seat belt retractor frame, which is to be secured to the vehicle structure, so that the reaction forces generated by the drive of the electric motor driving means and the pyrotechnical tightening device are supported or received via the seat belt retractor frame at the vehicle structure.
The invention will be described in more detail by an embodiment with reference to the sole drawing FIGURE.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The FIGURE is a diagrammatic view of a preferred embodiment of the invention.
The embodiment of the invention shown in the FIGURE is a seat belt retractor for a seat belt 1, which can be incorporated into a vehicle, in particular a motor vehicle. The seat belt retractor comprises a winding shaft 2 to wind up the seat belt 1 and a motive spring 3 to bias the winding shaft 2 in the winding direction of the seat belt 1. An electric motor 4, preferably a direct current motor, is a driving means used for changing the spring force of the motive spring 3 and for driving the winding shaft 1, in particular in a pre-crash situation.
To transmit the torque generated by the driving means 4 to the motive spring 3 and to the winding shaft 2, a gear 13, which will be described in more detail, and a coupling 5 are used. The coupling preferably comprises a switch coupling, whereby the coupling can be moved into the engaged position with the second active surface by an electric, in particular electromagnetic, signal or by an inertial force.
The gear 13, the coupling 5 and the motive spring 3 are preferably a pre-assembled unit. The gear can comprise a toothed gear system. To this effect the toothed gear system can comprise a screw gear, for instance with a front screw wheel pair, or of a worm gear. The electric motor 4 can be subsequently secured to this unit or can be pre-assembled as a component of this unit. As can be seen from the FIGURE, this unit is mounted to the so-called mechanical side of the seat belt retractor. The mechanical side of the seat belt retractor comprises in a conventional manner the vehicle sensitive sensor device as well as the belt webbing sensitive sensor device. These two sensor devices are designed in a known manner and are shown diagrammatically as a sensor device 14 in the drawing FIGURE. The vehicle sensitive part of the sensor device 14 reacts to an excessive acceleration or braking of the vehicle and causes a blocking of the winding shaft 3. The belt webbing sensitive part of the sensor device 14 reacts to an excessive rotary acceleration of the winding shaft and also causes a blocking of the winding shaft 2.
A gear 13 comprises a drive wheel 11, which is rotatably mounted on a shaft 8 rotationally connected to the winding shaft 2, and which is rotationally connected to an outer spring end 10 of the motive spring 3 by a rigid rotary connection. The shaft 8 is an axial extension of the winding shaft 2. The torque generated by the driving means 4 is transmitted to the drive wheel 11 via a further gear part, for instance a front screw wheel 12 or a worm wheel. This torque transmission is suited for an arrangement of the driving means as shown in the FIGURE, in which an output shaft 16 of the driving means runs perpendicular to the axis of the shaft 8. In a parallel arrangement of the output shaft 16 of the driving means 4, the force-transmitting gear part can be a drive belt or a gear wheel or gear wheel pair. The gear, the coupling and the motive spring are preferably arranged on the side of the seat belt retractor on which the vehicle and belt webbing sensitive sensor is provided.
A rotary connection 15, rigid at least during the force or torque transmission, is provided for the force or torque transmission from the drive wheel 11 to the motive spring 3. This rigid rotary connection 15 can preferably be constantly provided. In this case the drive wheel 11 is rotationally connected to an outer spring end 10 of the motive spring 3. The rigid rotary connection 15 is rotatably mounted around the shaft 8. The rigid rotary connection 15 can for instance be securely connected to a spring housing 20, in which the motive spring 3 is arranged.
The coupling 5 comprises a first active surface 8, which is movably mounted to a component rotationally connected to the drive wheel 11 against the force of a restoring spring (not shown in detail). In the shown embodiment the first active surface 18 is arranged on a coupling part 21 movably mounted on the spring housing 20. The second active surface 19 of the coupling 5 is rotationally connected to the shaft 8. To this effect, in the shown embodiment, a second coupling part 22 is provided, on which the second active surface 19 is located and which is rotationally connected to the shaft 8 at a fastening point 23, for instance via a spline. In this manner a rotational connection between the second active surface 19 of the coupling 5 and the winding shaft 2 is created. In a known manner the two active surfaces 18 and 19 of the coupling 5 can be toothed gears, frictional surfaces or the like, engaging one another during the coupling engagement. A suitable coupling means can for instance also be a coupling as described in DE 198 44 092 C2. The coupling engagement can be caused by in particular an electromagnetic switch signal or by inertial forces.
In the shown embodiment, the components of the coupling 5 are arranged between the drive wheel 11 and the motive spring 3, in particular the spring housing 20. In this case the components of the coupling 5 are bridged by the rigid rotary connection 15. In this manner a particularly compact structure of the unit 17 comprising the gear 13, the coupling 5 and the motive spring 3, is achieved, which can be preferably accommodated in a common housing. In addition the components of the gear 13, the coupling 5 and the motive spring 13 can be pre-assembled in sequence and in a flat arrangement with regard to the unit 17, and be mounted to the shaft 8 on the mechanical side of the seat belt retractor. It is furthermore possible to carry out the sequential assembly of the components of the unit 17 in a simple manner on the shaft 8 projecting from the mechanical side and to subsequently place them in a common housing.
The axial order of the sandwich arrangement of the drive wheel 11, the coupling 5 and the motive spring 3 can also be switched according to assembly requirements. For instance, the inner drive wheel 11 or the parts of the coupling 5 can be positioned on the outside and the motive spring 3 can be arranged between the drive wheel 11 and the coupling 5. Any other axial order of the components, however, is also possible.
Should in addition the function of a power tightening with a compact arrangement be provided on the seat belt retractor, the power tightener can preferably be designed in the shape of a pyrotechnically driven tightening device 6 on the other side of the seat belt retractor or the winding shaft 2, as can be seen in the FIGURE. To this effect a drive wheel 24 rotationally connected to the winding shaft 2 is provided. The drive wheel 24 can also be connected to the winding shaft 2 via a coupling which can be engaged for tightening purposes. The tightening drive can be designed in a known manner, whereby a toothed rack drive, as known for instance from EP 0 629 531 B1, or drive bodies, arranged in sequence in a guide channel, as known for instance from GB 2,325,896, or ball-shaped drive bodies, as known from DE 196 02 549 A1, can act upon the drive wheel 24 all incorporated herein by reference for teaching a pyrotechnically driven tightening device that can be used in the practice of the present invention.
The mode of operation of the embodiment shown in the FIGURE is as follows.
To adjust or change the spring force of the motive spring 3, the electric motor driving means 4 generates a torque at a low revolution, which is transmitted from the drive wheel 11 via the rigid rotary connection 15 to the outer spring end 10 of the motive spring 3. By twisting the outer spring end 10, according to the rotational direction of the output shaft 16 of the driving means 4, the spring force of the motive spring 3 is increased or decreased. For instance, during the return of the seat belt 1 to a stored configuration after removal of the seat belt, the restoring force of the motive spring 3 can be correspondingly increased. During the application of the seat belt 1 the restoring force of the motive spring 3 can be decreased to increase the comfort perceived by the wearer. In addition, after the application of the seat belt, an increased restoring force can be provided by the motive spring 3, to apply the seat belt to the body of the vehicle occupant in a perfect manner. Subsequently the already mentioned decreased restoring force of the motive spring 3 can be adjusted to adjust the comfort in wear during normal driving conditions.
To transmit the driving torque of the driving means 4 to the winding shaft 2, the coupling 5 is brought into its engaged position. The coupling 5 can be a switch coupling which can be brought into an engaged position, for instance in a pre-crash driving situation by a corresponding electrical pulse. The switch coupling 5 can be designed so that it can be automatically brought into the engaged position at an increased revolution of the driving means 4 by an inertial force or a centrifugal force. To this effect the coupling device 5 can be designed according to the type taught in U.S. Pat. No. 6,196,487 which is incorporated herein by reference for the purpose of teaching a coupling device usable in the present invention.
The driving force generated by the driving means 4 can be reversibly transmitted to the winding shaft 2 via the shaft 8. If no crash follows the pre-crash situation, the coupling 5 can be released, for instance by a brief turning of the driving means 5 into the opposite direction, and the belt webbing application force provided for normal driving conditions is restored at the seat belt through the corresponding adjustment of the restoring force of the motive spring 3.
In the event of a crash the pyrotechnically driven tightening device 6 is activated so that the vehicle occupant is pulled back and held in the vehicle seat by a retensioning action with a high retracting force.
The electric motor driving means 4 can also be activated when the vehicle occupant has been in an out-off-position for more than a predetermined length of time. The vehicle occupant is then brought back into a normal seating position by the restoring force supplied by the driving means 4.
In a preferable manner the pyrotechnical tightening device as well as the unit 17 are secured to a common frame, in particular to the belt retractor frame 7, which is to be secured to the vehicle structure.
In combination with the electric motor driving means 4, the torque of which is transmitted to the other side of the retractor or of the winding shaft 2 to the motive spring 3 and the winding shaft, a compact arrangement of the retractor is achieved, on the one hand ensuring the comfort of the wearer of the seat belt through a change in the spring force at a low revolution of the driving means as well as ensuring on the other hand a belt pretightening during a pre-crash situation at an increased revolution through transmission of the torque of the driving means to the winding shaft. The pretightening function can be carried out in a reversible manner by the activated coupling with the aid of the electric motor driving means. The energy for instance of a repeatedly chargeable electric memory, for instance a condenser for operating the electric motor driving means, in particular of the electric motor, can be used. As mentioned above, the retractor furthermore assumes the function of power tightening in a crash that has occurred. The pyrotechnically driven tightening device on the other side of the retractor is used to this effect. This results in the advantage that conventionally assembled seat belt retractors can be provided with an electric motor driving means, in particular for pretightening the seat belt in a pre-crash situation, as well as with an adjustment means for the motive spring force.
In this manner a seat belt retractor is achieved, in which in a compact arrangement the adjustment of the motive spring force, the function of the pretightening in a pre-crash situation and the function of the power tightening in a crash are integrated in a compact arrangement.
The foregoing description is exemplary rather than defined by the limitations within. Many modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. The preferred embodiments of this invention have been disclosed, however, one of ordinary skill in the art would recognize that certain modifications would come within the scope of this invention. It is, therefore, to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described. For that reason the following claims should be studied to determine the true scope and content of this invention.